Lend Me Ten Pounds, and I’ll Buy You a Drink.

There is a gentleman I pass quite regularly on my cycle ride to the pool who appears to be picking herbs from the grass on the roadside. I’ve often wanted to stop and ask what he is collecting. I almost did so this morning, but it occurred to me he may be collecting cigarette butts discarded by people using the path. I am probably wrong. He is there so often, I doubt there would be that many butts for him to pick up by now. Nevertheless the thought was enough to deter me from stopping and asking. He might be embarrassed.

Whenever something like that happens I get the feeling I am losing an opportunity to hear an interesting story. Is he picking penny royal to make a decoction to induce abortion? is there some psychotropic weed growing here that no one other than he knows of? Is he a harmless nut herbalist, or a derelict with no money for fags? Is it any of my business?

Almost as if to answer the psychotropic theory, I next came upon a much younger man who appeared to have dropped a plastic carrier bag of possessions and was bending over to retrieve them. I was about to stop to help, until I heard what he was saying, or rather the language he was using, and his tone. It was a loud, angry, incoherent rant full of effing and blinding and the colourful C word. He seemed to be referring to one C in particular, up which he proposed to insert various objects. Whoever he was talking to was not visible to me.

Nor, it seems, was I visible to him. I pedalled by on my bike with its bright yellow trailer sporting a pirate flag on its mast. His rant at the invisible person beside him did not change at all as I rode through his line of gaze. I have seen those crazed, dilated-pupil red-rimmed stares before. Not weed. Ice. Move on. Quickly. Before those eyes focus.

The clear water of the pool was warm. It did not feel particularly refreshing. The only energy burnt there today would be in propulsion, not in maintaining body temperature. It was so warm I wondered if I was sweating as I swam. How can one tell?

The MP3 player gave me a particularly good choice of random music today. My 90 minutes of laps passed very quickly. A bit of Zydeco, Sinead O’Connor, Pink Floyd, and Afro-Celt Sound System. I managed to keep up a vigorous stroke rhythm most of the time except during the more languid sound of O’Connor’s Danny Boy. Not my favourite version, nor my favourite of her recordings.

An estimated 4,740 kJ burnt, I had a cold shower and shampoo. Then, after a quick visit to Aldi for salad vegetables, I headed home, pedalling into a freshening breeze from the NNE. Practicing my long neglected nautical assessment skills, I estimated the wind to be between 18 and twenty knots, and bringing rain.

I checked my apps when I got home. 20 knots, NNE. And the radar showed approaching storms. The rain and lightning began within half an hour. It hasn’t changed the heat or humidity.

It still hurts when I pedal. More when I walk. The exercise is not helping, and may even be making things worse. I can’t keep increasing my painkillers. I need a new strategy.

On a completely different note, Richard in Quebec may be interested to hear I have been told there has been a rare (for Bribie) sighting of a small flock of Oriental cuckoos down at Buckley’s Hole. If the weather and my legs permit, I may toddle off down there tomorrow to see what I can see.

Pain

I can’t stand the pain
Spondylosis
Pinching back vertebrae
I can’t stand the pain
Knee arthritis
‘Cause I’m not who I used to be
Hey bloody knees
Tell me, do you remember
How sweet it used to be
When I could walk for miles
Everything was groovy
Now my joints are grating
And that’s one sound
That I just can’t stand
I can’t stand the pain
Of spondylosis
Aching thighs, aching knees
I can’t stand the pain
Of gravity on me
‘Cause I’m not who I used to be
When I was a young man
Everything was so grand
Now that I’ve grown old
There’s just one thing
That I just can’t stand
Can’t stand the pain
I can’t stand the pain
Of my leg muscles
Taunting me with memories
Of when I could walk free
I can’t stand the pain
And I can’t walk far
Unless my walking stick’s with with me
When we are together
I can make it round the shops
Like Woolworths. Oh sweet memories
But it’s just so wrong
That I just can’t stand
I can’t walk alone
Without a trolley to lean on
I can’t stand the pain
The spondylitic pain
That just keeps on haunting me
Hey hey pain
Get off of my back, please
‘Cause I can’t stand the pain
I’ll jump out a window
‘Cause I can’t stand the pain.

Meds and Booze

Frequent visitors may have detected a slightly surreal turn in some of my recent blog entries. Usually I let some whimsy into my posts deliberately, but lately I have been experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Not in order to get high, but in order NOT to get high. I was aware the recent increase in pregabalin dosage would affect me, and despite joking about getting stoned, I took care not to mix drink and drug until I had adjusted to the new dose. When I first stated taking Lyrica i had three days of being pleasantly stoned, to the consternation of my neighbours and employers. Being a sensible chap I did not drive or interact with my community kids until I adapted. Being in a dry community at the time meant I did not have an alcohol interaction issue.

Pregabalin has been an incredible help in managing the pain in my legs caused by the spondylosis in my spine. I cannot manage without it. I know. I tried. Recently the pain has been returning. Walking any distance, or carrying weighty objects exacerbates it badly. To the point of tearful suicidal thoughts.

The new dose gave me a pleasant buzz after the first couple, though nowhere near as much fun as when I first started on it. So I foreswore alcohol until the effect subsided. I also did not drive my car, though I did ride the bike to the pool. The pool is my real drug these days.

Once I thought I was used to the dose, I tentatively tried booze by putting a drop of Baileys in my coffee. That seemed ok. Next day I had a wine with my evening meal. Later, while talking on the phone with a friend I had a whisky. Or two.

It hit me like a hammer. I fell into bed and immediately weird sleep. Next day I knew I was incapacitated.

Queensland cops are the most rabid in Australia, and besides, even stoned, I am a responsible person. I didn’t even ride the bike to the pool. But I had a weird day. The blog tells it all.

This is an explanation, not an apology. To be perfectly frank, I enjoyed the experience, but not enough to want to keep repeating it. I’ve missed too much pool time. I tried a whisky nightcap last night with no ill effect, so maybe I’m back to normal, whatever that is.

You can still expect some weirdness on occasion. I don’t need drugs or booze for that.

Sunrise Over Moreton Island

After my evening meal yesterday I thought I’d take a little nap. I was asleep in an instant. I didn’t wake until half past midnight. Wide awake and full of beans. I worked a little on one of my craft hobby projects that have gone unattended for some time.

At 04:30 I was really hungry so I had an early breakfast. Feeling more spry than I have for a while I then took the bike to the beach and watched the sunrise. Not a particularly photogenic one, but all the same it was most pleasant to listen to the surf and the birds in the early light.

The tide was halfway out. It would be low at 08:15. There was enough hard sand exposed for a morning ride along the beach. So I rode down the wheelchair access mat and through just a bit of soft sand then along the beach for a few km. What a great way to start the day. I was not the first. Someone had already set out in a 4WD. I passed an elderly couple who had already walked a couple of km, and a man fishing.

Lessons.

Today was a day in which I learned, or was reminded of, several important things. It was intended to be a quiet day sorting out the van and disposing of things that are no longer needful, or that do not bring me joy. I am decluttering with a ruthlessness that would make David finally proud of me.

Having swum ninety minutes every day this week I thought I’d take a break, but then, in a fit of energy, and procrastination, I rationalised that I may not be able to swim for a while after the surgery tomorrow. So I should definitely go today. The truth is, I am becoming a swim junkie. I need my fix of weightless, fluid, pain-free motion with good music, the cool silky feel of water flowing over my skin.

Also I had spotted in the Target catalogue, a cheap, small microwave oven that looked as if it might fit into the space created for one in the caravan, a space currently filled with sauce bottles and assorted condiments that do not require refrigeration. I decided I need a microwave, now that I am on mains power semi permanently.

I measured the space and recorded the dimensions on my phone. Then went for a swim. I forgot my walking stick. Emerging from the pool and feeling the return of gravity, I regretted my decision not to go back for it. I decided I need three. One always in the car, one in the bike trailer, and one at home. It is getting hard to do without it.

After my swim, I showered, changed and headed for Target. I stopped into the bargain shop first to pick up an extra walking stick.

In Target I found the oven I was interested in, pulled out my tape measure, and checked the dimensions of the front of the oven. It would fit. I picked up a boxed oven from the shelf below the display and headed for the checkout. By the time I got there, I knew I had made a serious mistake. The shooting pains in my legs and the grinding sounds from my knees told me both they and my back were buggered from this weightlifting exercise. It was only a small oven!

I left it by the checkout and went in search of a trolley. I had not limped far at all before I needed a rest. I leaned on my stick in the forward leaning pose that seems to give me relief. A young woman, who had been at the checkout behind me, came up to me, pointed at a bench and told me to sit there while she found me a trolley. She then headed down to Woolworths at the other end of the mall, returning with a trolley.

What a sweetheart. Her name is Tara. I felt so old. Especially when she patted me on the shoulder and told me that like me, her grandma was always trying to do more than she was now capable of. Hey, I’m father material, not grandad. But of course, I was her age when my grandad was my age.

Such people are the treasures of humanity as much as any great Nobel laureate.

Once I had a trolley to lean on, I was fine. I collected the oven and transferred it to the cruiser. Back at the caravan I unboxed it and carefully, if painfully, carried it inside. Of course it did not fit into the space available. Only the face had the right dimensions, and even then, only just. A short existential crisis until I realised I could remove the top of the cupboard, insert the oven and put the top back. A quick gathering of tools and the step-stool I call the standy on-thing.

First, I put insect screen over the ventilation hole through the wall of the caravan. That should keep out the ants and insects that might otherwise colonise the back of the oven.

It did fit though the cupboard top does not quite go back as snugly as before. I then reheated some cold coffee in a mug. No more reheating in a saucepan on the gas stove and forgetting it.

But I now need to find somewhere to put all the sauce bottles and assorted condiments that do not require refrigeration.

I wondered at the marvellous technology before me that cost only $68. I remembered my first microwave and how expensive it was. This thing cost little more than a packet of 40 cigarettes, or an hour of my wages, back when I was earning them.

That made me think of all the man hours and material that went into manufacturing it. If the retail price is so low, how much do those who do the real work get? Then I felt guilty. This is why the world is in crisis.

But coffee. And reheated chicken, turkey and chorizo in mushroom sauce.

Epic Ride

I’m pretty pleased with myself. Given the calorific indiscretions of yesterday, I was determined to do the right thing today. I was up at six. Two mugs of coffee and a Carman’s Oaty Bar for breakfast and off to the pool. I was in the water just after a quarter to eight. I had the pool to myself until after nine. By four minutes to ten I had completed 92 lengths without stopping. Slow and steady. About 6,000 kJ, I estimate.

Then I rode down to Bongaree to visit the library. I called in to talk to Joe at the bike shop, and bought a pump. By then it was lunch time. A steak and kidney pie and Coke Zero from the family bakery in Bongaree. Then I had to work that off, so I set out on the epic ride mapped out below.

I stopped for a walk at Buckley’s Hole, but was disappointed to find the lagoon was dry and there were council workers at the bird hide. No birds. So it didn’t matter I hadn’t taken my good cameras with me.

It seemed a long ride, Despite the electric assist, my legs are telling me they did their fair share of the work. By the time I arrived home just after two, both I and the battery were almost exhausted. But I was not in pain, I noted with some surprise.

There is no way I could have done this a month or so ago. When I recall how I fared on my first ride on this bike, and how tired and sore I was after, I get a good idea of how far I’ve come. It is very encouraging.

There is an underpass beneath the Bribie bridge, for pedestrians and cyclists. It is very interesting because it takes you down below sea level. Joe was telling me there was a major stuff-up in construction because the contractor did not use the specified concrete. The result was porous and the subway filled with water. It had to be dug out and done again. That explains all the work that was going on that I wondered about every time I drove over the bridge.

The roundabout at Bellara is the scariest place for an old codger on a bicycle. I shan’t go that way again. Motorists seem to lose all courtesy on roundabouts. Though some are bastards anywhere on the road. Especially those with ‘P’ plates. I quickly cut back to the cycle path and decided not to ride the roads again if I could avoid it.

Bongaree Jetty
Plenty of places to rest.

Small Significant Steps

My weight has plateaued again. Despite daily exercise and (mostly) healthy meals. On the other hand I have lowered the saddle on the bicycle a few finger widths. Chubby finger widths.

This is particularly significant because apart from meaning I can put my feet down properly, increasing my safety when I am stopped at an intersection, it is a very encouraging indication that my knees are improving. Also that I’m lighter. My riding posture seems more comfortable too.

Best of all, I pedalled home this afternoon against a steady strong wind that proved I was contributing a significant effort to my progress. Enough to break out in a sweat despite the cool of the evening.

The pool is getting a lot of use these days. I am sharing a lane most of the time. Sometimes we triple up which involves some accommodations, since I am invariably the slowest swimmer. I am also the only one who does not stop unless I’m waiting my turn for half a lane. The others swim intermittently for a fixed number of lengths or a short time such as half an hour, then leave.

What I find particularly irksome is the couple of old codgers standing still at the shallow end of a lane talking for half an hour and not using the lane while others are triple sharing. If they just want to talk in a moist environment they should go sit in the paddling pool. I’m becoming a grumpy curmudgeon.

I don’t like to feel I’m hogging a lane so when there is a crowd like today I quit after only 90 minutes. That’s a good 4,000 kJ burned at least by my calculation. Another thousand minimum on the bike and a couple of hundred on my daily limp around the camp mean that I can be completely guilt-free however I choose to spend the six to seven thousand kilojoule daily food and beverage budget I allow myself.

Then the black dog reminds me that I’m doing all this just to be fit and well at the Apocalypse. And I pour a couple of gins and tonic. Bombay Sapphire was on special on Saturday.

I had started stocking up for Christmas, but what the hell. Christmas is when you feel.